It has been almost five decades since Services last played a Ranji semifinal. The inexperience was expected to show up at some stage against semifinal regulars Mumbai. It did for a while on the fifth day until Yashpal Singh, a batsman grossly underrated and a bit unlucky, and skipper Soumya Swain settled them down and stretched Mumbai to the reserve sixth day.
Mumbai's plans had been hit badly by the loss of seven sessions due to rain. It was evident in different stages.
First, skipper Ajit Agarkar and Aditya Tare, who resumed the Mumbai innings, racked up 74 in nine overs to get them to 454. Their onslaught gave them enough time to bowl out Services. A modest start by their bowlers was aided by the nervous home openers retiring to their shell, even playing seven maidens on the trot and eventually falling.
But then Yashpal and Swain parried in style, and that second piece of evidence of a bothered Mumbai sneaked out of their most experienced player, Sachin Tendulkar. With the shadows lengthening at the Palam grounds on Sunday and Yashpal taking time out for treatment, Tendulkar didn't seem amused.
Just a few overs back, the master had however added to his immortality. A fan dashed to the middle and touched his feet. The security caught him and while they were hauling him away, Tendulkar signalled them to let him go. The crowd cheered the gesture. While Tendulkar hogged the limelight, the performance came from Yashpal and Swain. Together they put on an unbeaten stand of 92 off 160 balls.
Yashpal, a Delhi lad, who was forced to join the Plate-level Services after the responsibility of earning for the family came on his shoulders following his father's demise, has spent the last decade in obscurity.
After a brief stint with the Kolkata Knight Riders, he's even struggled for an IPL contract. This is his big stage and he's begun well. A punch through covers set the tone and it was followed by some beautiful shots, a flick off his toes and an exquisite cover drive. Swain, the only Services player not from the sports quota, looked equally in command. He clipped the ball off his toes well and far, one of which got him his fifty and even pulled and drove with élan.
Mumbai 454/8 decl (A Agarkar 145, A Tare 120, S Tendulkar 56, A Nayar 70; S Nazar 3/142) vs Services 164/3 (S Swain 63*, Yashpal 43*; D Kulkarni 1/18).
PTI adds from Rajkot:
Riding on a splendid bowling performance led by off-spinner Vishal Joshi, Saurashtra on Sunday thrashed Punjab by 229 runs to enter the Ranji Trophy final for the first time in 75 years. Saurashtra scored 477 in the first innings and took a vital 178-run lead over Punjab by dismissing them for 299. Chasing 349, the visitors were skittled out for 119.
Saurashtra 477 and 170 beat Punjab 299 and 119 (Vishal Joshi 5-43, Dharmendra Jadeja 3-25). Saurashtra win by 229 runs.